The Weber State men’s basketball team will begin its season with an exhibition game against St. Katherine College on Saturday night, as the Wildcats look to repeat as Big Sky Conference champions.
“We’ll go into that first exhibition, and we’ll give everyone a chance to play some. And that will be another way to evaluate and see where everybody is at,” said WSU head coach Randy Rahe. “I want to see how hard we’re gonna play, how tough we’re gonna be, and how together we’re gonna be. Those are the three things I’m looking for.”
Saturday’s game will be the first time the Wildcats face off against another team since losing to Arizona 68-59 in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament on March 21. Since then, the Wildcats have had the majority of their squad either graduate or leave the program. They have five returning members on this season’s roster.
“We’ve got some younger guys who are now sophomores and juniors who are gonna have to step up, have much bigger responsibilities, which I think they’re ready to do,” Rahe said. “It’s a totally different team. We lost five kids from last year that played some, and so we’ve got to establish some new roles for different guys, some new guys have to establish their roles. Overall we’re pretty darn young.”
Senior James Hajek said that while the team is young, he feels they’ve already made some progress since the start of practice.
“I feel like there are some young guys out there that have really made strides, even since practice started in the three weeks that we’ve been going,” Hajek said. “And the older guys who are here have also taken that next step too.”
One of the returning Wildcats, reigning Big Sky Freshman of the Year Jeremy Senglin, is going to be one of the key players the team will look to for leadership this season. Senglin said that leadership is going to be one of the key aspects of his game that he works on this year.
“Leadership and keeping the team together,” Senglin said. “I’m a sophomore, which is kind of young, but I can’t act like that because we lost a lot of seniors and got a lot of young guys. So I gotta be one of those guys who leads.”
Also returning to the Wildcats this season are sophomores Kyndahl Hill and Richaud Gittens,
Hajek and reigning Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year junior Joel Bolomboy.
Bolomboy finished third in the nation last season in rebounding, averaging 11.0 rebounds per game. He also led the Big Sky Conference with 11 double-doubles, including an 11-point-16-rebound performance in the Wildcats’ loss to Arizona.
Last season, the Wildcats played against St. Katherine in a non-conference, regular season match-up that ended in a 107-36 blowout victory for Weber State. The 71-point win set a new school record for largest winning margin, and the 36 points allowed was the third fewest in school history.
Looking forward to Saturday night’s game, Hajek said that he thought the team was ready to get out on the court and play in front of a crowd.
“Guys are ready to go compete against somebody else,” Hajek said. “It will be good just to go out there and play in front of people and get some nerves out too. Just to be able to play against a team that isn’t wearing a Weber State jersey. It’ll be fun just to go out and compete against somebody else.”
The game will start at 7 p.m. at the Dee Events Center on Saturday. The game against St. Katherine will be the first of two exhibition games the Wildcats will play before beginning their regular season on the road Nov. 14 at Utah State. The Wildcats’ home opener will be held on Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m., when Weber State hosts Presentation College. Rahe is confident in his team’s abilities, saying that they are a hard working team.
“Number one thing that jumps out at me is that we got a really hard working team,” Rahe said. “They play hard. They’re fun to coach, and they’re trying to get better, and they have great attitudes about trying to get better.”